ROMANS - Paul’s Masterpiece

2:57 AM

By Sue Desmarais

Can you imagine writing a book or even a letter that God will use for thousands of years to impact and change lives for eternity? I’ll be honest, I have longed to dissect this letter to discover all that’s here, and I’m so glad we’ve come to this book during the summer when life tends to slow down a bit, so that I can devote more time to studying it. I’m also thankful we’ll be studying it together and hope you’ll share all your findings as well.

Every theologian I read seem to agree that this is Paul’s masterpiece and “the preeminent doctrinal work in the NT” (J. MacArthur) Therefore, we’re probably going to find this Book of Romans will naturally contain a number of difficult passages to fully grasp and maybe some truths that are foreign to the views you’ve held until now. So, with this in mind, I truly wanted to treat Romans like the masterpiece it is, and begin by giving you some of the background about this book in order to enhance our study even more.

The Author: The Apostle Paul wrote Romans from Corinth towards the close of his third missionary journey (most likely in A.D. 56), as he prepared to leave for Palestine with an offering for the poor believers in the Jerusalem church.

The Recipients: It’s believed that some of the converts on the Day of Pentecost were probably the founders of the church at Rome (Acts 2:10). Paul had longed to visit the believers in Rome, but had been prevented from doing so (Rm 1:13). And because of God’s providence, Paul writes what most believe is his inspired masterpiece.

The Purpose for Writing: Paul’s purpose in writing Romans was to teach the truths of the gospel of grace to believers who had never received instruction prior to this. This letter is Paul introduction to a church where he hopes to visit soon for several reasons:  
  • to edify the believers (1:11)
  • to preach the gospel (1:15)
  • and to get to know the Roman Christians, so they could encourage him (1:12)
Unlike some of Paul’s other epistles (e.g., 1, 2 Cor., Gal.), his purpose was not to rebuke ungodly living, for the Roman church was already pretty doctrinally sound, but they needed practical instruction which Paul provides for them in this letter.

Paul’s Greetings and Introduction: Romans 1:1–15
Paul identifies himself as a bondservant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle (one who is sent), and set apart for the gospel of Christ—which is, the promised good news concerning Jesus Christ (His humanity and His divine nature)

Paul then begins by stating  that the gospel of Christ is what was “ promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures”, for he wants them to be sure that he hasn’t made this up; that  it wasn’t his ideas, but rather, it comes to us right out of the Old Testament, which he refers to more in this letter than any of his other letters. He then goes on to explain the gospel further in verses 1:3-7, but let me sum it up by saying, I believe Paul is attempting to convey to us and his readers that the gospel is not primarily about us and how Jesus can help us find happiness and peace and fulfillment. Rather, it is from God and about God. It speaks about His Son, who humbled Himself to come from heaven and be born as a descendant of David to fulfill what was prophesied long ago. After which, He offered Himself up to be crucified on the cross, but God raised Him from the dead and He then ascended into heaven. As Peter put it on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:36), “… know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”
I truly believe Paul is going to cause all of us, as we journey through the Book of Romans, to look within and make sure that Jesus is not only our Savior, but Lord of our lives!

The Theme: Romans 1:16- 17,For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous will live by faith.”
Every commentary I read believes verses 16-17 are the theme of the Book of Romans, but I had to wonder why Paul used the negative “For I’m not ashamed” instead of a more positive phase like, “I’m confident” or “I’m proud”. I had to wonder, did Paul ever feel tempted to be ashamed of his faith, to hesitate or to keep quiet, as maybe some of us have in the past, or was he referring to others when he was writing?  
We actually need to see the flow of Paul’s reasoning to truly understand his meaning. He begins verse 16 with the word “for”, which automatically connects it with verse 15. Therefore, Paul is saying, “I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” Why?For I am not ashamed of the gospel….” Why?For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.Now how is this gospel the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes? For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” Paul then goes on to let his readers know that this isn’t a new idea by quoting Habakkuk 2:4,as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith.’”

In order to boldly and unashamedly proclaim the gospel, we must believe it! And in order to believe it, we must understand it, which is what I believe, was Paul’s main reason for writing The Book of Romans. The gospel is the good news, that God has revealed to us how we can be rescued from His wrath to come (1 Thess. 1:5-10). It is the power of God to save everyone who believes, and  I pray that as we better understand it, we too will boldly and unashamedly share it with others!

The Need of God’s Righteousness 1:18–3:20,
Paul is going to use the rest of chapter one through much of chapter three to speak on man’s sinful state and our need for God and His righteousness, and because I’ve already taken up so much time simply in the introduction, I’ll save all I have to say on this for tomorrow and the next day, but let me close our introduction with the words of a few great theologians on how Paul’s epistle impacted them:

In 1516  Martin Luther wrote, "I greatly longed to understand Paul's epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, `the righteousness of God.' Because I took it to mean that righteousness whereby God is righteous and deals righteously in punishing the unrighteous.  Night and day I pondered until I grasped the truth that the righteousness of God is that righteousness whereby through grace and sheer mercy He justifies us by faith.  Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise, the whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the righteousness of God had filled me with hate, it now began to fill me inexpressibly with a sweet love.  The passage of Paul became to me the gateway to heaven."

In May of 1738, John Wesley attended a society in Aldersgate Street where a man was reading Luther's Preface to the Epistle to the Romans and later wrote in his journal, describing the change which God brought about that night in the heart through faith in Christ, "I myself felt my heart strangely warmed.I felt I did trust in Christ and Christ alone for my salvation, and an assurance was given me that He had taken my sins away, even mine and saved me from the law of sin and death."  So it was in Aldersgate Street at the reading of the book of Romans that John Wesley was redeemed.

John Calvin said, "If a man understands it, he has a sure road open to him to the understanding of the whole of Scripture."

William Tyndale wrote in the Prologue to the Epistle to the Romans, in 1534, "I think it meet that every Christian man not only know Romans by rote and without the book but also exercise himself therein ever more continually as with the daily bread of the soul."

Frederic Godet, a Swiss commentator, wrote (Commentary on Romans [Kregel], p. 1) that “every great spiritual revival in the church will be connected as effect and cause with a deeper understanding of this book.”

These are just a few of the quotes I found on this epistle, and I hope by reading them you’re growing even more excited to dive deep into our study of Paul’s epistle to the church of Rome!! I’ve already started praying that God will use this book to work mightily in each of our hearts over the next few weeks! So get ready… get set… It’s going to be good!

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